My Business Experience
The Chinese way of doing business has nothing to do with the German way. I had to learn that the hard way, but now I have it internalized. But still Chinese manage to surprise me, giving me the chance to learn. Get wiser. And the Chinese way works. Many Germans don't want to believe that and want the Chinese business partners follow the rules that we Germans have made part of our DNA. Alas, reality is different. Either you play by the Chinese rules, or you risk ending up in trouble.
In my 22 years business experience I did the following, among others:
- negotiating and implementing a JV with a Chinese business partner
- after the relationship with the Chinese partner went sour, changing the nature of the JV to a 100% foreign owned subsidiary (i.e. buy out of their shares)
- negotiating contracts for the supply of investment goods from Germany to China
- managing relations with local Chinese partners
- export from our Chinese plant to the South East Asian market
Although my Chinese language skills are not fluent, they are sufficient to make myself understood
Update January 2022: my mood to travel to China has turned to about zero. For once, I cannot (owing to Covid and the Chinese handling it), and then there is this increasing Orwellian feeling that makes me shiver...
Compared with China, I feel that India is easier and not easier in the same time. Easier it is because there are more rules and regulations to follow, and Indian bureaucrats are not that "flexible" that I could observe with Chinese bureaucrats. You feel somehow safer. And India is not easier because there are more rules and regulations to follow - progress is remarkably slower.
My track record in India:
- negotiating and implementing the takeover of a local Indian company
- know how transfer of German technology to India
- relationship management
- negotiating contracts for the supply of investment goods from Germany to India
- establishing export channels out of India and selling "made in India with German technology" when "made in Germany" is too expensive
My judgment after more than 30 years trying to understand Japan: Japan is different and wants to stay different. Very difficult if not impossible to bring new "outside" technology to Japan.
Even my decent Japanese language skills made no difference (I have the second grade of the Japanese proficiency skills). However, the good news are that once that you have established a working relationship with Japanese partners, it is stable and very trustful. Only my approach to bring new life with new products into our business relationship had a limited effect - caused by the Japanese standard in our branch, the construction sector
My impression is that in my business life (road&bridge sector) my Korean clients are relatively risk averse and do not like to take individual decisions. There are established ways to follow, and mistakes have to be avoided at all costs. Just follow their way, and you will have success. Apart from traditional export business from Germany to Korea via a Korean agent, ultimately I ended up to establish an own business entity in Seoul, as a 100% subsidiary of the German mother company. With my Korean partner I enjoyed a very deep and trusted relationship.
After many years of struggling, finally I managed to understand to some extent the Brazilians and their way of doing business. Precondition is that you speak their language. So I learnt Portuguese which is even sufficient for business. And finally, with local help, I understood the difference between Paulistas and Cariocas.
Also in Brazil, I was instrumental in negotiating the takeover of a local Brazilian company, establishing a foothold in Latin America.
And, admittedly, after countless trips to China, I very much used to enjoy the Brazilian way of life. Kind of balance, that is.
Thailand, and rest of South East Asia
South East Asia can almost not be reached with "made in Germany" in the road&bridge business. Too expensive, too much Chinese and Korean competition. So my focus was to enable our production plants in China and India to export from there, which already is quite a challenge, as every competitor does that. So you get your senses sharpened.